The U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. today announced that former Moreno Valley city Councilman Marcelo Co, 64, agreed to plead guilty to bribery in connection with the largest under-the-table payment ever accepted by a public official in an undercover operation:
Dude totally thought he was going to get away with taking $2.36 million in cash from the FBI operative.
Co will plead guilty to federal bribery and filing a false tax return, prosecutors say. He's already in hot water with the state, having resigned from the city council in August after California authorities started investigating him for alleged welfare fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office says.
Feds say Co told an undercover FBI "operative" posing as a real estate broker that he could get the City Council to vote his way when it came to land-use decisions that could benefit him.
They allege that Co solicited donations of $5,000 and $10,000 and then, about a year ago, Co promised to get the city to rezone and sell a 30-acre parcel of land then worth less than a million dollars for $5.36 million, so long as when the land got sold his take was $2.36 million.
The rezoning would make the land worth the upgraded price, and Co would get his cash for the rezoning, feds allege:
At a meeting on January 30, 2013, Co agreed to sell the property for $5.36 million, but that the publicly filed documents would reflect a sale price of only $3 million. At this meeting, Co accepted $2.36 million in cash.
The icing on that cake is that Co failed to report $100,000 in income to the IRS in 2010, feds say. Bill Lewis, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles office:
Mr. Co regularly traded votes, land and confidential information in exchange for cash to fund his personal bank account, rather than what was in the best interest of the residents of Moreno Valley. This case was a result of seamless collaboration by the Inland Regional Corruption Task Force, whose members share a mission of rooting out corruption across the Inland Empire.
Co was expected to appear in court in early December.